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Matcha 101: Everything You Need to Know about the Japanese Super-Tea

“What’s the bright green drink I keep seeing in the restaurant?”

If you stick around long enough, you’ll hear this question at least once a day at Oxford Exchange’s TeBella Tea Bar. Matcha Lemonade is perhaps the most visually striking drink we make: an iced speciality drink that consists of equal parts electric green Japanese Matcha and lemonade. It has quickly become one of the best-selling drinks at Oxford Exchange.

Matcha has also been making the rounds in both foodie and healthy-living publications as the latest must-try drink. So what is Matcha, you ask? Here is a little Matcha 101 primer to help you get acquainted with this Japanese green tea.

1. Matcha is green tea that has been ground into a powder with a mortar and pestle.

Matcha is made from a shade-grown Japanese green tea known as Tencha, which is grown exclusively to be ground up into Matcha. Because Matcha is a powder, it must be prepared differently than other loose leaf tea. Matcha is traditionally whisked into hot water with a bamboo whisk. There are two main ways to prepare Matcha: usucha and koicha. Usucha is most commonly served during Japanese tea ceremonies, and is made by whisking Matcha powder into water by using a fast, continuous motion that creates a thin brew with a frothy layer of foam on top. Koicha, which translates to “thick tea,” is prepared by using less hot water and more Matcha powder. It is whisked slowly and deliberately, to avoid that layer of foam desired in usucha preparation. This thick, viscous form of Matcha is closer to the consistency of melted chocolate when prepared correctly. Usucha is by far the most commonly used preparation method for Matcha.

There are several grades of Matcha, and the higher the grade the sweeter the natural flavor. Most tea places, including TeBella Tea, will carry a high quality cooking grade Matcha, which has a good flavor but is not as naturally sweet as expensive ceremonial grade Matcha. Instead, it has a bold vegetal flavor that is an acquired taste. You can add a little sweetener, milk, lemonade, or natural fruit juice to Matcha to brighten the flavor. 

2. Matcha is very, very good for you.

Because you are ingesting the entire tea leaf rather than a wash of it (as when steeping tea leaves), Matcha has a higher concentration of all the health benefits associated with green tea. It is considered a superfood, and is extremely high in antioxidants. Matcha contains EGCG, a polyphenol that has been shown to boost metabolism. It is thought that drinking one cup of Matcha is the health equivalent of drinking 10 cups of regularly-steeped green tea. Matcha also has a higher ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity–how to measure the antioxidant content of superfoods) number than all other superfoods, including pomegranates, blueberries, and goji berries.

As mentioned previously, Matcha is produced by grinding shade-grown Tencha into a powder. Shade-grown means that at a crucial part in their growing period, the tea leaves are covered with a tarp which allows them to produce an overabundance of chlorophyll. This high concentration of chlorophyll is a great detoxifier. 

3. It is also very high in caffeine.

Matcha contains about 70mg caffeine, which is around 25mg less than a cup of coffee. The presence of amino acid L-theanine in the tea leaf, however, causes caffeine from tea to process differently in the body than coffee caffeine. Caffeine is released in a steady amount over a longer period of time, so there is no crash associated with the caffeine in tea. 

4. Matcha helps you focus

L-theanine also has a calming effect on the body, as it increases the production of dopamine and serotonin in the body. It is also associated with mindfulness, and Matcha has historically been used to aid meditation practices. Is thought to help concentration and focus. The combination of caffeine and L-theanine creates a nice little buzz that will keep you going through workouts, errand runs, or marathon study sessions.

5. You can cook with it!

Have you ever had a green tea smoothie, green tea ice cream, or green tea cookies? Yup, those were made with Matcha! Because Matcha is a powder, it is easy to add to recipes. If you want to incorporate Matcha into your diet for the health benefits but would prefer not to drink it, try adding Matcha to smoothies or oatmeal as part of your breakfast routine. 

Matcha is a versatile drink, and we love experimenting with it at TeBella Tea. Currently, we offer Matcha by the ounce in store or on tebellatea.com, and we make a few iced speciality beverages with it: our Matcha Lemonade, a Pineapple Ginger Matcha, and a Lavender Honey Matcha. 

How do you like to drink Matcha? We’d love to know!

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